Much has been written in recent days about NBC’s (s GE) ratings victory over American Idol; the network was able to glue more people to the screen last Wednesday than the singing competition airing at the same time on Fox (s NWS). In fact, NBC won this one by a land slide: It’s coverage was seen by 30.1 million people, while 18.6 million tuned into Fox. That’s the first time any competing TV event has ever had higher ratings than American Idol. Not only that, but in 2004, Idol’s audience was twice the size of that of the Winter Olympics.
The New York Times reported last week that NBC’s victory wasn’t entirely accidental. The network, which traditionally has had a huge influence on the schedule of the Olympics, was able to line up three well-known U.S. athletes on the same night. Those three actually winning gold didn’t hurt NBC either. A look at Twitter statistics provided by Trendrr seems to suggest that Idol’s overall influence may be waning, and people just prefer to talk about and tune into the programming with stars that are actually famous.
It may have taken three gold medals to put NBC over the top on Wednesday, but the Olympics have been dominating Twitter for more than a week now. The games peaked on February 12th with 226,391 tweets. Last week, it saw a total of 460,290 tweets. American Idol, on the other hand, only cased 36,197 Twitter mentions last Wednesday, and 116,423 Twitter posts throughout the week.
Further indication that star power still beats star-making came on Friday, when Tiger Woods’ press conference caused 219,303 tweets on a single day. But Tiger’s apology doesn’t directly translate to ratings for one particular network because it was carried live on multiple stations, as well as on the Internet.
There’s also no clear indication of whether either FOX or NBC could have profited from a closer integration with its online properties. NBC is protecting its online coverage of the Olympics behind a TV Everywhere pay wall, and Idol episodes have never been published in full online.
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